[LINK] Is it just me, or is this daft?

Steven Clark steven.clark at internode.on.net
Fri Mar 18 03:15:17 AEDT 2011

On 18/03/11 00:39, stephen at melbpc.org.au wrote:
>>> We're a power plant, right?  Power is what we produce .. 
>> Oops. (which is perhaps the most terrifying word after all.. )
> And what is now produced with that 'oops' is domestic, and world, anger.
> Anger vocalized many times by Japanese, on media tonight, and by me now!

This is not entirely the making of the Japanese who have been put in the
position of trying to manage this, and everything else that's just
happened to a large chunk of this very connected, interconnected, and
still deeply traditional culture/country.

Right now, one of four damaged stations is in a critical state of some
kind. Chances are, no one knows exactly how bad. But there are a lot of
Japanese people working to do everything they can to prevent things
getting worse. Nuclear power stations are perhaps the most poorly
understood of the major forms of electricity generation; compounded by
general misunderstandings about radiation (and it's potential effects)
more generally still.

What little I know about Japanese culture suggests that Western media
are not likely to help themselves or anyone else by leaping all over any
official they can corner. Communications are likely to be terse and
concise. And like any organisation, there are rules regarding who can
talk about what, when, and with whom.

In any emergency, situations change rapidly. It's hard enough for
emergency personnel on the ground to keep up with what they're doing,
and update up the chain, without an expectation that people outside that
chain also be kept updated. Particularly if those outsiders go about
expecting that they'll (a) be told *everything*, (b) *as* it happens,
and/or (c) in the *order* it happens.

One thing I'm pretty sure of in all of this: no one wants things to get
any worse. I doubt that media confusion (and confusing) is helping
anyone make anything better. But it does get their ratings up.

There are different kinds of radiation, with differing degrees of danger
associated with them. Panicking over the wrong kind will detract from
the impact should *really dangerous* radiation be involved. The current
situation isn't yet as serious as Chernobyl - and much of the down-wind
distress was over-reaction caused by lack of understanding about what
kind/s of radiation were involved, and thus how serious things really
were (not at all helped by lack of clear information at the time ...
just like right now in Japan).

> Japan is the third most powerful economy in the world. And, a few months
> ago, the second largest economy. Yet, I hear Japanese people saying that
> no one, especially the power company, or government, is out-putting info.

Japanese culture plays a role here that is very difficult for most
non-Japanese to understand. I'm not claiming any special knowledge here,
though I have Japanese friends and several friends of mine are in Japan
at the moment.

> This is in what's supposedly one of the world's most-connected countries.

Being connected doesn't mean that you (a) know what to say, nor (b) have
time to say all of it when you get the chance.

It's just as big a problem for the Japanese as it is for Americans,
Australians, and so on.

A great deal of the communications infrastructure in the regions around
the reactors in question either no longer exists, or is badly damaged.

> And, personally, my fiancée is teaching primary school in a tiny village
> in the Philippines. Like everyone in this village, she cooks dinner over
> an open fire, with vegetables from her garden, and, the catch of the day.
> Then, she spends hours preparing edu-materials for her children tomorrow.
> There's no television on her tiny tropical island, and one radio station
> which closes at 5pm. She can not readily find out about Japan, nor about 
> any fallout from Japan, which a rich country & not that far to her north.
> Yet this rich and well connected country is apparently not communicating
> much at all to their own people, and even less to us, and nothing to her.

As I recall, we usually find out more about disasters in the weeks and
months after recovery has begun than we know at the time. There is only
so much any of us can cope with, or comprehend, over short time frames.

I can imagine that in the post-analysis ahead, there will be a lot of
criticism and critical judgements made about who did and said what, or
didn't do or didn't say what, and when. I think back to the recent
wildfires in Victoria, my own experiences in the Ash Wednesday fires in
the 80s here in SA, and the many other crises and disasters I have been
aware of, or studied, or inquests I have participated in, during my

> I apologize to link if I've seemed anxious about nuclear energy, & Japan.
> But, my fiancée and I have a strong personal interest! I'm ANGRY at this.

It is natural to feel anxious, particularly when someone you care about
deeply may be in harm's way.

I do know that a great many Japanese here and in Japan are also anxious
and angry.

> One of the world's richest countries, may soon poison one of the poorest.

Do we know yet, who is monitoring the radiation plume? As far as I can
tell, the situation is far from meltdown critical - and the Japanese, of
all peoples, are aware of the effects of radiation poisoning. Should any
of the reactors go into meltdown and nothing be done to remedy, or at
least contain, the incident, Japan will the the first place affected. I
doubt they want to have a third significant radiological event on their

> And my future wife (one month), and all her village, might not even know.

Their radio station could be used to warn them. And if she can get in
there, so can iodine supplies.

I'm trying to say that *something* could be done to help, and to intervene.

> Again forgive my anger at this, and my sympathy with the Japanese people.

Here's hoping that the Japanese are able to contain the problem and
resolve it soon. For everyone's sake.

And I add my sympathy - and empathy - to you, and to everyone else more
directly affected by this whole disaster than I have been (so far!
*crosses fingers* - I still have friends in Japan, a few who have only
communicated outside Japan sporadically since the quake/tsunami.)


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